Super Best Audio Friends
The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists
Ultralinear is more powerful, punchy, with sharper and stronger attacks. Triode is softer, more rounded, but offers space, texture, and plankton. Ultralinear is clean, with straight lines, maybe even a bit simplified. Which one is more true? I'll be a weasel like the audio magazine reviewers and say that I do not know and that the listener must decide! My bias is obvious, but it's not nearly so black and white, it depends.
@Luckbad, seeing my post, offered to send me his Project Horizon to try, assuring me that the Horizon was different – better. I decided to accept this offer. I may have strong opinions, but I want to be fair. My motto has always been “prove me wrong”. BTW, the Horizon supposedly has a different topology from the Ember. I am not sure about this, so I would defer to all questions to either Luckbad for Garage1217.
One step at a time, so I want to start with frequency response first. This will be the most useful for people who want to create their own EQ profiles. The headphone frequency data I have put up there is compensated for a perceptual neutral as a straight vertical line across. For now, this data is copyrighted. However, can any of you guys who could tell me exactly what I need to do in concise steps to make it Creative Commons with Attribution? I don't care how the data is used, even if people want to make money from it with fancy EQ plug-ins. It would be great if someone can take the data and make a frequency response comparator. I'm too busy and most of my coding has been for tougher things involving numbers, e.g. attack and decay envelope for burst responses, etc. I know some of you guys have mentioned how you can help with coding stuff. Here is your opportunity.
Wait, what's this xDuoo boopy doop thingy? Hmm, the Force or Magic Eight Ball is telling me something here. "Hey, @CEE TEE, can you get me the iDuo duodenum X15 ZYX +++ mega version edition doodad?"
Well it turned out my hunch was right.
@Hands already did a lot of the heavy lifting in his Symphones V9 build review, going through 100 different pads. He zero'd in on the Geekria as being the best for this headphone, so I just went along with it. FWIW, I also agree these pads worked the best. For kicks, I also tried these pads with the Grado HF-3, and they worked quite well (more later).
I'm posting measurements first, as I immediately noticed I had to measure today -- otherwise I would not be able to do forever. Sounds holy-shit-oh-my-god-homerun-good to me.
Overall the sound is warm and a touch on the polite and forgiving side in the overall universe of DACs, cheap or expensive, that I have heard throughout the years. The ZEN DAC Signature is a still delta-sigma DAC, but iFi seems to go for a house sound that doesn't shear your ears of with digititus. The highs are plenty natural or as natural as can be. I'm assuming iFi is still going with the BB PCM179x series chips for this listenable quality. These chips are a bit dated. They are not the last word in microdetail compared to today's latest and greatest AKM or ESS parts. However, they don't suffer from the dreaded VELVET SOUND that every other person seems to dislike around here, or the still slightly unnatural highs of the ESS.
Personally, I prefer the Elegia from a tonal signature point of view, but the Stellia is massively better in terms of resolution, transient response, and just plain ol' liveliness and engagement. I didn't have as much time to tweak stuff as I wanted. As with any closed headphone (with the exception of properly executed Fostex T50RP mods), there's stuff that's a bit off and requires EQ to massage. The frequency response looks quite good though, but still.
This is now multiple forums and while reddit and discord aren't a big deal, headfi for marketing and here for quality impressions will hurt him. I hope in future he can come back from this but I feel he's too set in his ways to. Such a shame.
The Burl B2 Bomber DAC is something that I simply listening to. I don't get distracted by wow this or wow that. It's not that it doesn't do certain things well as all good DACs do or have its own flavor. It's just that goes about its business nonchalant way. This isn't Zhang Zimou were the audience thinks "wow, artsy fartsy, look at all those colors and synchronized movements", this is Steven Spielberg where we are engrossed in the story.